Archives For Ben Reed

We pastors are good at our individual faith. Really good.

We can pray.

We can read.

We can introspect.

We can “interpret.”

We can do a “quiet time.”

We can study.

We can exegete.

But we pastors aren’t so good at sharing our faith. I mean, we can share it from stage. Woven into generic illustrations that describe “a” faith journey. But it’s too easy to hide behind our beautiful masks.

It’s time to acknowledge that we all deal with junk. Sometimes it’s a product of our own doing. Sometimes it’s from someone else.

But that beautiful mask you’ve constructed is still a mask, hiding who you really are.

Quit hiding. It’s not doing you any good. Nor is it doing any good for those you lead.

Your messy story paints a beautiful picture of grace, mercy, hope, and love.  No need to hide.

You need Gospel community, just like those you lead do.

Gospel community offers you refuge that the secrecy of your beautiful mask would like to keep hidden.

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! - God (Isaiah 43:1)

If you’re interested in taking your…

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Quiet GuyI was in a small group my junior and senior years of high school that was absolutely monumental in my spiritual journey. That group helped me more than years and years of sermons I heard. More than years and years of sitting under a Sunday school teacher. More than years and years of individual study.Even though I didn’t talk much.

You know why I didn’t talk much during group time?

I was afraid.

I was afraid that I’d say something and be wrong.

Afraid I’d misquote a Scripture.

Afraid I’d say something and be disproven.

Afraid I’d say something dumb.

There were a handful of times when I’d share something, only for someone to immediately respond with, “Well, why would you say this if ______ is true? What about the verse that says, “______.”

I’m sure that the guys saying these things weren’t trying to strike fear in me. Surely they weren’t intentionally trying to undercut every little step of faith I took to kick my fear in the teeth. They couldn’t be backhanding slamming my little serve across the net, like the guy that toys with you in ping pong, only to make you look silly with…

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You’ve been a church visitor at some point, right?

Ever heard something you wish you didn’t hear, right off the bat?

I’ve got a few that nobody really wants to hear. Some I’ve heard personally. Others I’ve heard as they were told to someone else.

10 Statements Church Visitors Never Want to Hear

1. Our pastor isn’t normally this _____.

Insert whatever you want in this blank: loud, obnoxious, offensive, long-winded. If you have to explain part of your pastor’s style because you know that outsiders won’t like it, you’ve got a problem. Talk with your pastor about that.

2. We’re full. Sorry. 

Always have a backup plan. Always. If someone sees that your service is full once, they’ll deal with it. But they probably won’t come back if they don’t see a plan you have in place.

3. What are YOU doing here?

Never say this. Never. Your shocked, open mouth reveals your judgmental spirit…at least in the eyes of visitors. When you say this, all they can think is, “God couldn’t really love someone like you.”

4. You can’t serve now…you’ve got to be a member…

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My time in seminary was formative for my spiritual, and ministerial, life. I loved my time there, and was an important part of God confirming my call to full-time vocational ministry.

Seminary Library
image credit: andynaselli.com

Seminary isn’t for everyone, but it’s incredibly helpful for some. Including me.

But seminary doesn’t teach you everything. It doesn’t fully prepare you for ministry, or tell you what hats you’ll have to wear. If you go in to seminary expecting it’ll give you every tool it takes to lead the Church well, think again. It ain’t happenin’. In fact, I learned a ton working in a coffee shop while in seminary.

10 Things I wish I’d been told in seminary

1. Your involvement in the community is vital.

Finding boards to serve on, roads to clean, and festivals to support shows that you love your community, your culture, and your people. It communicates that you care more than just about your local church, but that you see your local church is a part of a local community. It shows others…

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We pastors say a lot. Most of the time, we’re straight shooters.

At least as far as you can tell.

Sometimes, though, we don’t really mean what we say. It’s not that we’re speaking an outright lie. There are just subtle, slightly different interpretations that one might make of our words. We’re like a good exercise in hermeneutics…be careful the first time you try to read us. Read us in our grammatico-historical context and it’ll all make sense. Speed-read through an interaction and you miss the fuller context.

Don’t be offended here. Not all pastors mean these things every time. Give us some grace. Allow us the space to love on and minister to our family first. And for crying out loud, quit thinking that paid staff are the only ones to whom the Great Commission was given!

What pastors really mean…

We say: You emailed me? It must have gotten lost in the digital mail.

We mean: I read that thing three days ago. Forgot to respond.

We say: My evenings are booked solid this week.

We mean: I value my family time. Find a way to meet during normal business…

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Growing up, I went to church a lot. A lot. (I know — that’s a theologically loaded phrase. Just hang with me. And read that last sentence again slowly for dramatic effect, please.)

On any given week, we had Sunday morning services, Sunday school, youth choir, discipleship classes, student ministry, Tuesday night outreach, Bible drill, Royal Ambassadors, and Friday night at the gym. Sprinkle in the occasional Saturday brunch, outreach event, and Judgment House, and our lives revolved around being at the church building. (I’m incredibly thankful for the commitment my parents made to raising me in a godly home. It set me on a trajectory that would shape my life in massive ways.)

I remember vividly one late Sunday afternoon sitting on the back deck grilling with my dad. My little brother was swimming in our blue kiddie pool, and Mom was there taking it all in.

“I sure wish we could just skip out on going to church tonight.”

I felt guilty the moment this thought passed through my head, but I let it pass anyway. As I thought it, fire from Heaven spit down into my eyes and…

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Rearview MirrorI’ve visited a lot of churches. I’m always looking for ways that we at Grace can improve.

It’s amazing what a fresh set of eyes can find.

It’s one thing to get people in the door once. But to get someone to visit again, and begin to call your church their home? Much tougher.

We’re still trying to figure out ways to ensure people stick, but there are a few things we’ve learned that will guarantee someone won’t come back.

10 Ways to Ensure I’ll Never Revisit your Church

1. Offer no easy way to plug in to community.

Don’t tell me about small groups. Make me wait forever to plug in…or make me do extensive work to even figure out what kind of groups you offer.

2. Don’t be welcoming in the parking lot.

Just do your job, don’t speak to me as I walk in, and offer a bit of a “it-is-early-on-a-Sunday-morning” scowl.

3. Don’t acknowledge I’m in the service.

Give no head nod to “first timers,” “visitors,” or “folks just checking us out.” In fact, just speak to the inner core, the “members.”

4. Acknowledge me too much.

Call me out and have me stand up….

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The decision I made to move into full-time vocational ministry was one of the most difficult decisions of my life. It took me nearly a year of praying, fasting, reading, and seeking counsel.

But when I made the decision, there was no swaying me. Not a chance you were going to convince me I was headed the wrong direction. I was sure that the direction my compass was pointing was the right one. I made the decision resolutely and began planning my life around it.

I wondered though, was this a healthy confidence built on the back of the Truth of Scripture, the counsel of others, and God’s hand leading me throughout the previous 12 months? Or was it simply me trying to mask my self-centered, “I’m-right-and-you’re-not” pride?

The line that distinguishes pride and confidence is often indistinguishable.

From the outside looking in, it’s like trying to find a fishing line in mid-air. You know it’s there but unless you find yourself tangled in it, it is not visible to the naked eye. If you don’t stand in the right spot, you’ll find yourself hooked by it.

To see the fishing…

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Moses is one of my favorite heroes in the Bible. Partly because of the danger surrounding the time of his birth. Partly because he was an amazing leader. Partly because he got to part an entire sea.

But mainly because I love how real Moses appears. You get to see Moses’ humanity throughout his story. The fact that he’s weak, doubts his call, and still messes up gives me loads of hope that God could use me despite my weaknesses, doubts, and failures.

God called Moses to lead the oppressed Israelites to freedom from their bondage to Egypt, and Moses doubted whether this would work. After all, he was just Moses. And Pharaoh was the most powerful man in the world.

In Exodus 4, so God could prove to Moses that He is who He says He is, God asks Moses to throw his shepherd’s staff on the ground. When he does, it turns into a snake. He then asks…

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Sermon NotebookI had the chance to preach at Grace this Sunday.  It was a great experience communicating with my church family. And I learned a few things about myself through the preparation and delivery of this sermon as I reflected on it.  Things that seemed more tangible than other time I’d preached.  See if there are some here you’ve experienced if you’ve ever preached.

10 Personal Observations I learned through preaching

1. Preaching causes me to pray more.

I was on my knees more this past week than I have been in a long time.  I needed a fresh word from God, fresh insights, and a message that was True.

2. Preaching causes me to study more.

I can’t just pull a message out of thin air.  I have to study the Scriptures a lot in order to prepare a message.  It was a rich time for me.

3. Preaching humbles me.

a) Knowing I’m preaching the Scriptures and people are learning them through that preaching…that’s both humbling and intimidating.

b) Knowing I’m being prayed for…that’s humbling, too.  I can’t tell you how many people I heard from directly offering an encouraging word of prayer.  It was powerful.

4. Preaching causes me…

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BibleMost people, when they preach, want to do well. Right?

Most people want others to experience God, encounter truth, and leave changed. Most people want the hard work they put into their sermons to have some sort of impact on the people listening.

Most people.

But not everyone. Some people aim to preach a lousy sermon. If you’d like to be one of those preachers, here’s your list.

9 keys to preaching a lousy sermon

1. Spend very little time praying.

If your sermon is going to be lousy, this is where you’ve got to start. Don’t seek God in prayer. Don’t spend time begging Him to lead your thoughts and your words. Don’t plead with him to soften hard hearts and open blind eyes.

2. Make your sermon purely about “teaching” propositional truths.

Go at it like your 7th grade history teacher…the one that you thought was boring. The one that you didn’t remember anything from her class. Just teach lofty moral platitudes and propositional truth statements that don’t drive any application home. That’ll get the job done.

3. Make your “study time” primarily about listening to other preachers talk about that passage.

Whatever you do, don’t read…

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A pastor does more than preach on Sunday mornings. In fact, that’s one thing you should be careful saying to your pastor.

We work throughout the week as well, wearing many varied hats. That may be something you forgot about us pastors. If preaching were all we did, our job would be easy.

image credit: Flickr user Small_Realm

I don’t preach every week, but the weeks that I get the opportunity (though I relish it), I’m completely swamped. None of my other responsibilities go away…it’s just a matter of tacking on 20-25 hours of prep time.

I often counsel folks who are sensing a call to ministry. Their idea of full-time ministry is that you get to have a “quiet time” for a couple of hours in the morning, take a long lunch where you meet with friends, drink coffee all afternoon, and go home by 4:00. They think that ministry is easy.

Trying to paint an accurate picture of the day-to-day life of a pastor is difficult, because there are so many different tasks that we…

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